Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beware The Darkness Howls All Right

Opening for the post-punk duo Middle Class Rut clearly has its advantages. But even without picking up such a coveted opening spot, Beware The Darkness is an amped up rock trio that rises to the occasion.

They've been known to shake up the stage with their sound, one that smacks of Southern Depression-era rock. None of the members hails from a Southern state. They just sound like it at times.

The three of them came together when singer/songwriter Kyle Nicolaides packed up his belongings in Santa Barbara and headed south to play small clubs and dark venues in Los Angeles. Tony Cupito (drums) happened to catch his act one night and they quickly forged a good enough friendship to start a band named after a George Harrison song.

After fielding several area bass players to fill out their band, they eventually discovered New Jersey native Daniel Curcio (bass) who was visiting Santa Monica after learning he had a half-brother. The meeting led to a match. A few months later, they signed with Bright Antenna Records.

The Howl EP  introduces their upcoming album due out in October. 

Although sometimes described as alternative rock, it's their epic rock single — Howl — that immediately gets people on their feet. The track, which blends and bends around some blues, gospel, and vintage rock influences can be easily summed up as a pickup song straight out of the Seventies.

While the lyrics are not typical for Nicolaides in their straightforwardness, he has the right bravado to deliver up raw and primitive rock vocals against a steady stream of borrowed guitar riffs, chunky bass chords, and crashing percussion. It doesn't hurt that the object of the song's desire is chaste either.

The rest of the material works much harder and mostly sounds better for it. Ghost Town is a broody fate song about turning your back on heaven. The best part is at the end when the band loosens up from the consistent chug and crashes into a crescendo, with Nicolaides asking "where's my savior." He doesn't expect one, mind you.

The lyrics for Holy Men are just as dark and also pointed at religion. The song takes on the sinister subject of pedophiliac priests and what it does to faith. It's the most musically ambitious track on the EP with the chorus and Curcio's beautiful bass riff holding the song together. Some people won't like the message, but the angling toward contemporary issues over the buzz of rock works here.

The fourth track, Culture Bomb, has some of the best lyrics with its attack on post-modern paranoia. Nicolaides wails that the end of the world happens daily, a cultural bomb that makes some people think change is a bad thing. The truth is that things always change. They always have and always will.

Unfortunately, Culture Bomb is also the most experimental track and maybe too much so for its own good. The song brings in a piano that overpowers and distracts from everything likable about the band. It's obvious the arrangement was written to convey chaos and paranoia, but works too hard to do it.

Beware The Darkness has promise if the band doesn't over think it. 

Putting a single about religion in the crosshairs isn't necessarily the theme of the upcoming full-length album, but it is a common thread for Nicolaides. And that means he sometimes runs the risk of being too heady for his own good. As much as Culture Bomb attacks end-of-the-world fanatics, he has some upcoming lyrics that rail away with same paranoia he claims everybody else has.

Maybe it will come with maturity, but he also misses what makes his influencers great. People like Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, and Allen Ginsberg didn't just wail about what was wrong with the world and claim to be right. They showed people how to celebrate what everybody else took for granted, ignored, or loathed. They also never thought themselves cool to do it.

The EP Howl By Beware The Darkness Nails 3.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

All the same, Beware The Darkness has enough potential to anticipate the album and enjoy most of the EP. It's cool enough to land here, even when the subject matter is muddled with a hint of righteousness.

I've also had the good fortune to catch them live, with Curcio playing bass like a lead guitarist and Cupito putting real power behind the sticks. Once you do, its easy to to understand why they were signed. Even when Nicolaides hits a sour note or strains to make his fingers hit the right strings, the energy and urgency draws in everybody.

The Howl EP is available on iTunes. Howl is also available at Amazon. The title track is the must-have and so is seeing them live. You can find them and their touring schedule on Facebook
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